It’s been more than a year since I started playing Genshin Impact, and all I can say is out of all the games I’ve played, this has got to be the best one yet. Granted, I did not play a lot of games before this, and if I did, they were always arcade and casual games. Even so, if a game pulls someone like me, a person with not enough time to himself, into playing it, it has got to account for something, right?
Genshin Impact shines with its lore. Sure, presentation of lore in-game has left more to be desired, but the lore is colorful and complex all the same. It is what kept me through all these months playing (and even paying for) this game.
Having said that, here are the top scenes of Genshin Impact for me since I started playing. Note that this ranking is based only on my opinion, from the least to most liked.
The very first scene of the game, when you first start your journey as the Traveler, you are confronted with a very intriguing scene of the twins fighting the Unknown God. It sets the plot and the goal of the Traveler: to find their missing sibling by inquiring about the identity and whereabout of this Unknown God, who called herself the Sustainer of Heavenly Principles.
What I liked: this scene opens the game, and it sufficiently provides thrill, intrigue, and initial background on the main characters. From this scene alone, the players find out that…
- the siblings were trapped in this world
- they were not of this world
- they lost their original powers
- they explore from world to world
- they have arrived in the world of Teyvat and have sufficiently explored it before this encounter
- this encounter happens when they try to leave and go to their next world.
- that the Sustainer of Heavenly Principles has enough power to contain both of them; and
- the first mention of the Heavenly Principles, a concept or entity to which we still know virtually nothing about 2 years into the game.
This killer opening begins the game with a bang, and the player is not only intrigued but excited to explore the world of Teyvat and uncover its mysteries.
The Dance of Sabzeruz concludes the second act of the Sumeru Archon Quest entitled The Morn a Thousand Roses Bring. The Traveler, with the help of the Dendro Archon, Lesser Lord Kusanali, or Nahida as she calls herself, has just found out that the sages of Sumeru had put the entire city into a deep sleep to harvest their dreams, putting everyone in a samsara, or a looping dream cycle and making them relive the same day of the Sabzeruz Festival, a celebration of the Dendro Archon’s birthday, over and over again.
The Traveler investigates how to break the samsara and wake everyone out of this dream. After realizing that the host of the dream needs to wake up first for the dream to break apart, they find out that Nilou, a stage performer at the Zubayr Theater, is the host of the dream. After realizing she was dreaming, she performs the Dance of Sabzeruz, against the rules of Sumeru’s ruling body, The Akademiya, who had banned artistic performances in favor of scholarly activities. As she performed, the dream started to dissipate, and everyone started to wake up.
What I liked: throughout the Act II of Sumeru Archon Quests, Dunyarzad, an NPC, has been accompanying the Traveler. She was sick with Eleazar, which we later find out is a manifestation of forbidden knowledge in humans. After going through 168 samsara cycles, her Eleazar, being left untreated, has been killing her physical body while she’s in the dream. A cruel fate indeed, as all she wanted to do was to see Nilou perform the Dance of Sabzeruz in honor of Lesser Lord Kusanali. Her dying in the samsara gave the Traveler—and me—enough push to put an end to the Sages’ cruelty and find out what they’re actually doing with the dreams.
Signora is the first major antagonist character in-game. This was in the Mondstadt Archon Quests, which was a prologue and not an actual chapter in itself. In that story, there was no single person that was an antagonist—except towards the end of the act, where this bitch Signora walks in, kicks Venti, takes his Gnosis, and bounces off just like that.
What I liked: Signora. That’s all there really is to it.
Kidding aside, this scene sets the tone for the next chapters of the game. Mondstadt is a very beginner-friendly area. But this scene transforms the game from being a cutesy kid-friendly game into being a political, thrilling story. It also sets up the subplot about the Fatui, an organization from the land of Snezhnaya that is present in all other countries in Teyvat.
It also sets up the Gnoses, which were later explained as proof of Archonship from Celestia. It was a physical proof of Celestia’s rule over all of Teyvat. And this scene incites intrigue for two reasons: (1) why are the Fatui collecting the Gnoses, and (2) why did Venti, a very powerful Archon as we realize later on in the game, not fight for his Gnosis? These two questions barely have answers even at this point.
The Raiden Shogun’s first appearance is also a remarkable scene. I am always gagged whenever I see strong, powerful women display their glory. It’s the same thing with Wanda Maximoff from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the sangg’res from Encantadia, with La Signora like I talked about previously, and now the Raiden Shogun, who is Inazuma’s Electro Archon.
In this scene, the Raiden Shogun appears in front of the people for the ceremony of the 100th Vision to be taken during the Vision Hunt Decree. Visions are to regular humans what Gnoses are to Archons. It gives them control over a single element in Teyvat, giving them extraordinary power, which, to the Raiden Shogun, goes against her goal of unchanging Eternity. This scene shows Thoma, one of The Traveler’s first friends in Inazuma, being captured and his Vision being taken away by the Raiden Shogun.
What I liked: up until this moment, the player has no idea what the Raiden Shogun looks like. And the previous two Archons we have met have been benevolent and helpful. This is the first time we get a villainous Archon who seems to have little care about her people. Seeing the Raiden Shogun, in all her glory, unsheathing her electric sword out of her boobs, slashing time and space to take the Traveler inside her consciousness—all this contribute to a very thrilling scene. I literally got chills when I first played through this, and the battle scene afterwards which made all of my character’s skills disabled because of the Vision Hunt Decree only added to the immersive experience. It was a genuinely frightening experience.
The Chasm is an ancient place in Liyue characterized by spiraling rock formations that circle towards a central passageway that leads into an even deeper cavern system underground. At its very bottom lies a Celestial nail. We’ve seen this first in Mondstadt’s eternally frozen mountain Dragonspine. It seems like wherever a Celestial nail is placed, the surrounding area is up in some form or another. And the Chasm is no different from it.
Xiao, a yaksha from Liyue and an assistant to the Geo Archon Morax, dives deep into the Chasm, while the Traveler, Yanfei (a lawyer), Yelan (a government undercover), Itto (a gang leader from Inazuma), and Kuki Shinobu (a law student from Inazuma but studied law in Liyue) get trapped inside the deepest parts of the Chasm with no way of getting out. Yanfei came here in search of a certain “fantastic compass” for one of her clients. Yelan came here to investigate one of her missing ancestor’s past. And Itto and Kuki were here following Yanfei after getting them out of jail.
In the final part of this interlude Archon Quest, they use the fantastic compass to get out of the Chasm. The compass’ power was maintained by Xiao, and when the evil spirits stopping them from escaping has gotten the best of them, Xiao chooses to sacrifice himself to send all the others out of the Chasm.
What I liked: this is the closest we got to the first ever character death in-game. A lot of speculation have gone around that Hoyoverse, the developer of this game, would never allow playable characters to die. But counter arguments say that they have actually done that before in another game, Honkai, where a major character died even after being made playable. So this uncertainty made players scared for Xiao’s life, him being beloved for all of the tragedies he’s had in life. He did not deserve to die, at least not in that way, but also, it was very in character for him to offer his life like that. The fact that this cutscene closes one of the best quests in the game only adds to the fantastic experience (hehe see what I did there?)
Sumeru is divided between the forest-dwelling people under the rule of the Akademiya and worships the previous Dendro Archon, Greater Lord Rukkhadevata, and the desert-dwelling people, among the latter are the Eremites who are mercenaries that worship King Deshret, the Scarlet King. To further encourage this divide, the Akademiya has disseminated false news and revisionist history that King Deshret died because Greater Lord Rukkhadevata had betrayed him, sparking discontent between the two factions.
This scene happens shortly after the Traveler, Sumeru’s main characters, and leader of the Eremites, Rahman, gets sucked into a quicksand that led to the tomb of King Deshret’s priest. His final memory was contained within the tomb, thus clearing the confusion spread by the Akademiya—namely, that King Deshret has brought forbidden knowledge into Sumeru, corrupting his territory and turning it into a deserted land, displacing his people from their homes, and bringing the disease Eleazar into the people of Sumeru. King Deshret asked for Greater Lord Rukkhadevata’s help to contain the contamination, leading to the Scarlet King sacrificing his life to cleanse the earth, and Rukkhadevata exhausting her power, turning her back into a teenager.
What I like: throughout the Sumeru Archon Quests, a lot of emphasis was given on the effects of historical revisionism, technological advancements, and the spread of false news. Coming out just months after elections and impeachments all around the world, the story hits so close to home, and the relief of finally finding out the truth is afforded to the players as this scene plays out. Also, a leading theory at the time was that Greater Lord Rukkhadevata and Lesser Lord Kusanali were one and the same, and that Kusanali forgot her identity after getting her powers exhausted during the Cataclysm in Khaenri’ah 500 years ago.Footnote This scene gave those theories another basis, even if the truth was slightly different.
In the Aranara questline, we see the first NPC, Rana, to get a Vision in-game. This was disappointing, though, since we only see white text on black background explaining that she got it. But with the Wanderer’s story quest, we follow the Wanderer’s story from being the former Harbinger Scaramouche to becoming his own new person, free from mistreatment, abuse, and misunderstanding. In the quest to get his memories back after trying to delete it from the records of Irminsul, the Wanderer has to fight his own god-form self, Shouki no Kami, and in an effort to protect the Traveler and Paimon, he gets an Anemo Vision.
What I liked: this is the first time we see someone get a Vision in-game, and not like white text, but an actual cutscene. This is all I asked for since the Vision Hunt Decree in Inazuma. And it also dropped a lot of lore bombs while explaining how the Irminsul records and deletes memories.
In the climax of the Sumeru Archon Quests, Nahida faces off with Shouki no Kami, a new god created by the Akademiya out of the Fatui Harbinger Scaramouche. At this point, it has already been revealed that the Akademiya imprisoned Nahida after she was deemed powerless and with no wisdom to rule over Sumeru, and that the Sabzeruz Festival samsara was done to harvest people’s dreams and turn them into wisdom that Shouki no Kami would use to become the new God of Wisdom, replacing Nahida altogether.
What I like: the climax acts as the cohesive glue that ties all of the details of the story. Before fighting Shouki no Kami, Nahida secretly used the power of dreams to put herself, Shouki no Kami, the Traveler, and Paimon into 168 samsara loops, the same number of loops that the people of Sumeru underwent to have their dreams harvested, to record data about Shouki no Kami’s moves and attack styles. She then disseminated this data to all of Sumeru through the Akasha system so people can help the Traveler defeat the false god, finally restoring the Akasha system into its original purpose, “to compile human wisdom in the name of the Archon”.
The whole thing is just so epic, it made me teary eyed at one point. It’s like watching an Avengers movie, and seeing the classic trope of defeating the big bad with the power of friendship make sense in this context is just a delight to see.
The Lantern Rite is an annual festival in Liyue around the same time as the Chinese New Year, and it is arguably the biggest event in Genshin Impact. This year’s Lantern Rite was my first one, and in the event, we get to meet a lot of characters again, like Xinyan, Yunjin, Keqing, Xiao, Zhongli, Ningguang, and Beidou.
What I like: just how emotional everything is. Just writing about this makes me tear up again. There is no scene in the game that illicits this much emotion out of me months after it happened. Seeing everyone again celebrating the Lantern Rite, making their wishes, in the human age where no god is ruling over Liyue after the attack of Osial makes this even more special.
The people of Liyue, led by Ningguang and the Adepti from the Jade Chamber, fight the Overlord of the Vortex, Osial. Losing the fight will mean that the people of Liyue in the harbor will drown to their deaths. With their last line of defense destroyed, Ningguang sacrifices the Jade Chamber, a floating palace in the sky that she had built from the time she was poor, to kill the water serpent once and for all.
What I like: this was the first epic battle scene we got from the game. It felt like a Marvel movie, and it was also very emotional seeing Ningguang sacrifice entire years’ worth of hardwork destroyed to protect her people.
Jade Chamber is rebuilt after the original one suffered total destruction to defeat Osial. But the new Jade Chamber is threatened to be destroyed once more when Ningguang reveals that Osial’s wife, Beisht, harbors hate towards the Jade Chamber. She also reveals that she specifically rebuilt this new one so Beisht would come out of the waters. The Traveler and Paimon offers to fetch the powerful Adepti to contain the situation, but Ningguang stops them, stating that “in this human age, the people of Liyue must find a way to overcome this crisis on our strength alone.” Beisht unleashes a giant wave that once again threatened to drown Liyue Harbor, but Shenhe, a superhuman with homicidal tendencies contained by red ropes from the Adepti, freezes the wave in a moment of realization that this is the moment she could become one with the people again.
What I like: The entire quest focused on Shenhe’s life and how she was sacrificed by her father to a malevolent god to bring back her mother. She has since been too traumatized and believes herself to be a cursed child. Seeing her give her all to protect the people that rejected her made me so emotional. It’s a shame that Shenhe hasn’t had a rerun since.
Inside the plane of consciousness of the deceased previous Electro Archon Makoto, Ei, the current Electro Archon of Inazuma and Makoto’s twin sister, battles against the Raiden Shogun, a puppet she made for herself to rule over Inazuma in her stead as she entered eternal meditation to achieve her own version of Eternity. Ei finally defeats the Shogun puppet after 500 years of fighting inside the plane of consciousness, after which a fragment of Makoto’s consciousness appears to give her final words and the seed of the Sacred Sakura tree for Ei to plant in Inazuma’s past as a way to soothe the country’s pain.
What I liked: There are various things I liked about this cutscene. First, the fact that Ei literally had to sort out her internal battles in an actual battle. Like she said, the Shogun puppet is a manifestation of her past ideals, that stagnation is Eternity and that progress will inflict pain on her people. The fact that, to demolish those past ideals, she had to fight the Shogun puppet to prove that she was indeed ready to move forward was a very interesting take on the concept.
Also, the lore that dropped in this story quest was bamboozling. We get a shoutout to Istaroth, the god of time, who, as Ei speculates, helped Makoto to warp time and make Ei plant the seed in Inazuma’s past, making the people of Inazuma think that this tree had always been there. Makoto also mentions that what happened in Khaenri’ah was not something she could ignore. This made the succeeding Sumeru Archon Quest, particularly the second act, seem like a time loop instead of a samsara cycle, making the world of Teyvat even more complex and colorful.
Dainsleif and the Traveler discovers a stolen Statue of the Seven in a mysterious domain that was hanging upside down and was evidently being used for something sinister. An abyss lector appears and fights them. It tries to open a teleport portal, but Dainsleif catches it before it can enter the portal. The twist, however, is someone comes out of the portal to attack Dainsleif, and this someone is none other than the Traveler’s missing sibling.
What I like: the lore dump of this scene was incredible. This happens before the Liyue Archon Quests, which is the first chapter of the story after Mondstadt prologue. Everything just goes darker here in terms of lore. In the beginning of the game we were told that the Traveler’s sibling was trapped by the Sustainer of Heavenly Principles, and the next thing we know, that same sibling is now not only working for the Abyss but is also called a “prince/princess”.
This is a 90-degree turn to how I thought the story would progress. Mondstadt painted Teyvat as a place with monsters that we try to have fun killing while humans try to go about their day. But from this point forward, we came to know that Teyvat is a cruel and dark place, so much so that the Traveler’s sibling tells them that they need to journey through all of Teyvat to understand the truth of this world.
After being “allowed to leave Tenshukkaku alive” after winning a duel in front of the Shogun, the Traveler meets up with the Watatsumi resistance led by Gorou and Kazuha as they protest against the Shogun’s Vision Hunt Decree. But as soon as the Traveler leaves the Shogun’s residence Tenshukkaku, the Shogun appears behind them to kill them. Kazuha’s masterless Vision, the one that used to be his friend’s, started to synergize with his own ambition, granting him the ability to block the Shogun’s Musou no Hitotachi, a one-slash attack that guaranteed someone’s death.
As Kazuha parries the Shogun’s attack, the resistance moves forward to sieze and attack the Shogun. The siezed visions inlaid on the Statue of the Omnipresent God all light up, giving their power to the resistance. This, however, was not enough, because, like Paimon said, “they’re no match for her!” The Traveler was left with no other choice but to attack the Shogun to disable her as he entered the Plane of Euthymia and face their imminent death.
What I like: the epicness of all of it. The Musou no Hitotachi is a legendary skill that the Raiden Shogun uses. She has used it to slay gods, and, at one point, slash an entire island into two. Whoever victim receives the Musou no Hitotachi is dead for sure—except for Kazuha. I liked this scene because in less than two minutes, it has given us a lot of insight to the characters of the Shogun puppet, Kazuha, and the Traveler. We even got a callback to Kazuha’s friend who had the ambition to parry the Musou no Hitotachi and died to it.
This is not a cutscene, but it is one of the best scenes so far in Genshin Impact. It was a battle, not of the physical, but of the mental. The God of Wisdom Nahida and the scorned scholar Dottore negotiate with each other about the electro and dendro gnoses. The amount of lore drop and the way Nahida speaks to Dottore, a man she once feared, is very refreshing. It is a very remarkable way to show that she is indeed the God of Wisdom. And the best part is this is the first time in two years that the plot point of Teyvat’s skies being fake is addressed again.
In this scene, Nahida, still imprisoned in the Sanctuary of Surasthana, possesses the body of Katheryne, a bionic puppet that hands out commissions for the Adventurer’s Guild. The Traveler is at large and is wanted in all of Sumeru. After making contact with The Balladeer’s consciousness as he was being built into a new god of wisdom, the Corps of Thirty corners him and Nahida in Katheryne’s body. As they run for their lives, one of the soldiers stabs Nahida. She reaches out for the Traveler’s hands, effectively switching their consciousness. Nahida, now in the Traveler’s body, instructs Paimon and Tighnari about their next moves, while the Traveler, now in the Dendro Archon’s body, gets a glimpse of Nahida’s prison and Shouki no Kami.
The climax to the Aranyaka questline, which is the longest world quest so far in game, shows Arama and the Traveler fighting Marana’s avatar. This is one of the few (if not the only one) cutscene that shows in a world quest.
In a very tragic twist of fate, Greater Lord Rukkhadevata realizes 500 years ago that she, the avatar of Irminsul, has been corrupted and the only way to cleanse the corruption is to remove her completely from the records of the world. Her successor, Lesser Lord Kusanali, whom she created out of the Irminsul’s purest branch, is now tasked to delete Greater Lord Rukkhadevata from everyone’s memory and historical records. Kusanali had always looked up to the Greater Lord as she had always been loved by the people, unlike Kusanali who was immediately locked up by the sages for being too young and powerless. As she looked forward to meeting the Greater Lord, Lesser Lord Kusanali has to face the task the previous Dendro Archon has tasked her and make it like the Greater Lord never existed.
In one of the best cutscenes in game, we see Bennett, Eula, and Amber fight “Albedo” who turned out to be a whopperflower in disguise. This cutscene is part of a limited event that gave out huge lore bombs about Albedo.
Since her first appearance, Signora has been positioned in the narrative as the biggest bad so far. She has been in collusion with Zhongli in awakening Osial to prove that the people of Liyue can indeed handle crises even without a god. She has also been involved in the Vision Hunt Decree, and manipulating the resistance by distributing Delusions, items like Vision that give its holder extraordinary power over the elements, only that it drains them of life with continuous use. Signora is the closest we’ve had to a villainous character in-game.
In this scene, in their desperation and anger seeing how the Fatui’s Delusions harmed the resistance, specifically Teppei who was their comrade in the resistance, the Traveler challenges Signora to a duel before the throne, one where “the loser must die.”
Long story short, the Traveler wins the duel, even after Signora uses all of her might, final form, and Delusion, to win. The Raiden Shogun executes judgment on Signora even if she wasn’t from Inazuma. Signora threatens the Shogun that there will be consequences to her death at her hands, but the Shogun does not listen. The Shogun unleashes the feared Musou no Hitotachi, a legendary sword slash that can split islands in half. She uses it on Signora, who dies immediately as she disintegrates to ashes.
What I like: I knew this was coming because I asked my partner to spoil it for me back when I was still doing Liyue Archon Quests and I was not that invested in the story yet. But seeing everything unfold disappointed me a lot. I always thought that Signora would play an even bigger role in the story, and she’s one gorgeous . But seeing her die this early, and with no one yet to replace her role as the big bad person, is too shocking for me even if I knew. The whole scene is epic though, and the previous fight against the Crimson Witch of Embers is also great. It displays how powerful the Raiden Shogun actually is. And it’s the first time we see an Archon use their power in all of their glory.
There are no doubt other scenes that are great but didn’t make it to this list. And there also will be others that will be in the coming patches, so I am sure to check those out. It seems like I am not leaving this game anytime soon, so more treats for me!